The weaponising of food by Russia as it continues its illegal invasion of Ukraine is another low in this awful war.
We see the destruction of towns and cities and of farms and farm equipment.
We witness deaths and injuries and families and communities torn apart.
Despite Russia’s attacks, Ukrainian farmers are working hard to ensure a harvest for 2022.
Ukraine is the breadbasket of Europe. It is a major exporter of grains and oils and already the invasion has caused a severe disruption to exports and normal day-to-day activities on farms.
There is grain in store in Ukraine – grain that should be flowing to those countries like Egypt, that rely on wheat imports for their daily bread.
The EU is doing everything in its power in helping Ukrainian farmers get crops into the ground.
We are also assisting with finding alternative routes for getting grain in storage in Ukraine safely to market – “solidarity lanes” that will flow in both directions and also help Ukraine import the supplies that it needs.
Putin is working against EU efforts to prevent a severe famine in many food insecure countries.
Currently, Russia is bombarding grain storage facilities in Ukraine, blockading Ukrainian ports, and even stealing grain from Ukraine.
We will not allow Putin accuse us of causing global hunger. To be clear, EU sanctions do not touch grain or any other food exports.
Rather, it is Putin who has deliberately chosen to deprive millions of people, who are already food insecure, from gaining access to basic supplies.
The EU is prioritising humanitarian aid – for those fleeing to neighbouring countries and those displaced internally. At this stage, over fourteen million people are displaced and more than 6.8 million have left the country.
We are also prioritising solidarity and support to partners, to the countries most at risk, and to help make local markets more sustainable and resilient.
With the disruption of grain exports from Ukraine, up to 25 million tonnes of wheat may need to be substituted in the current season to meet world food needs.
While the EU is working with the Ukrainian government to ensure that as much land as possible is planted, it is also working to make sure that EU farmers can grow crops to help contribute to global food supplies.
Our cereal farmers are some of the best in the world and EU wheat yields are the highest globally, so the EU can contribute to tackling the threat of hunger and famine in countries that are food insecure.
The EU is a significant exporter of wheat and is determined to play its part in tackling the global food needs resulting from the war.
We are also cooperating with international partners to ensure that wheat for human consumption is prioritised. Within the EU itself, food availability is not at stake, though vulnerable families will be impacted by higher food prices.
As commodity prices are increasing so too are input costs. The EU relies on feed grains and oilseeds from Ukraine, and fertilisers and natural gas from Russia, and is vulnerable to shocks in supply.
The livestock sector – especially pigs and poultry – are already feeling the impact of sharp increases in feed prices.
The EU Commission has been steadfast in its resolution to support the agriculture sector both at Union and at national level.
It has adopted exceptional support measures of €500 million to directly assist farmers most affected by input costs. Member states are also able to take complementary action at national level. A Temporary Crisis Framework for State Aid has been put in place to allow member states to grant direct aid to producers impacted by the crisis.
In addition, the Commission’s European food security crisis preparedness and response mechanism will continue to monitor the situation and engage in ways to mitigate food security risks.
The EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy is designed to improve the resilience of the farm and food supply chain.
We need to harness all the possibilities from research and innovation to produce more using less resources.
A well-functioning single market is the bedrock of EU food security and safety and the Commission has warned against export restrictions.
The war in Ukraine has highlighted vulnerabilities in the European Union, in particular our over-reliance on imported energy. Vulnerabilities exist in our farm and food sectors too.
In this time of crisis, we are relying on our farmers to help in the global effort to tackle food insecurity and hunger arising from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and we are supporting our farmers to do just that.
By Mairead McGuinness, European Commissioner for Financial Services, Financial Stability and Capital Markets Union